Clancy Cavnar, Visionary Artist

I started drawing at about age 2 and, although I did not consider deeply the goal of being a professional artist, I ended up attending graduate school at the San Francisco Art Institute after college. All my sisters (3) have artistic talent, but my sister Kathy was the professional artist in our family. She was a designer who helped develop such characters as “Strawberry Shortcake” and the “Care Bears” for Kenner Toys. She was also a very unhappy person, and could not make art that expressed her inner turmoil, which might possibly have saved her, though she was very successful commercially. She eventually drank herself to death. I painted animal-human hybrids in deep pain and confusion, especially during my years at art school, and did not have much success as a professional artist.

After struggling for some years, and gaining some insight into my own self-destructive tendencies, I decided to become a drug and alcohol counselor, and did that for some years before getting a master’s in counseling and then a doctorate in psychology. During these years, I traveled to many places, including India, Nepal, Laos, and several other countries in South American and Europe, and cultivated a love of spiritual philosophy and of exploring different cultures. I encountered Santo Daime, an ayahuasca-based religion, in San Francisco, and went shortly thereafter to Brazil to that practice’s place of origin. Ayahuasca has been my main teacher among all those–human, animal, and chemical–that have inspired me to look past surface appearances to something more like reality.

My interest in non-duality has been the result of these experiences. Understanding the nature of appearances is crucial to all artists, and so, for me, my work with ayahuasca, my interest in non-dual philosophy, and my artwork are all related and grow from a common seed; that is, to understand, express, and participate in the closest approximation of truth I can arrive at.

Lately, I have also been co-editing books on topics relating to psychedelic substances and their legal, anthropological, and health-related ramifications. True understanding is a distant goal, but better to work for something valuable and hard to get than something easily obtainable but that leaves me still with the questions I come back to: who am I and what am I doing here? I hope people viewing my work will be able to pick up some parts of the answers I have arrived at.

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